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The Federal High Court on Tuesday sentenced 10 individuals up to 20 years behind bars for plotting attacks aided by terrorist groups.
Among those sentenced is a Kenyan national named Hassan Jarso who entered a guilty plea when first charged in May. He was jailed with nine Ethiopians.
Hassan informed the court that he had joined the Islamist militants of al Shabab in 2009 after entering Somalia.
In 2011, Hassan fought alongside the militants during battles against the African Union peacekeeping forces deployed there.
Angered by Ethiopia’s continued military presence in Somalia, al Shabab has publicly called on its operatives to target the country.
Hassan said he was posted to Ethiopia and was stationed here to serve as the al Qaida contact person in the country and was tasked to report on ‘jihad’ activities.
The group he had set up in Ethiopia was making plans and readying supplies to attack political and economic targets.
He was sentenced for 17 years in prison by the federal court. Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of life-in-prison for Hassan but his admission of guilt helped ease the sentence.
Two of his alleged Ethiopian accomplices were sentenced to 13 and 12 years behind bars, respectively. Judge Bahiru Daricha, said the court took into consideration their prior good social standing, poor education and family responsibilities to lower the punishment.
Another individual, who was charged with recruiting members to the group, was sentenced to 3 years and three months in prison. After the sentencing, his lawyer Temam Ababulga said they would appeal the court’s decision at the country’s Federal Supreme Court.
The court also gave out 14 to 20 years of imprisonment to six other people which were tried in absentia.
11 Individuals were first charged in May for being members of a terrorist group described by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in April as the first ever al Qaida cell in the country. The court subsequently convicted 10 of alleged group members while acquitting one individual from all charges.
Earlier this month, the National Security and Intelligence Agency (NSIA) announced that another terrorist group trained by al Qaida was apprehended. Security forces arrested 15 members of a terrorist cell they stated is linked with al Qaida.
Military training manuals, videos and weapons were seized from the suspects, according to the security agency.
Authorities said the suspects were trained by al Shabab militants in neighboring Somalia and Kenya and that the group was planning to launch attacks on targets located in the Somali and Harar regions.
Kirubel Tadesse is a freelance journalist and Associated Press writer based in Addis Ababa.